Genealogy Studies Program

Using DNA to Return Missing Soldier’s Remains to Families

Almost every month the news services mention the return of U.S. MIA or KIA soldiers’ remains to their families. Often the remains are recovered, but the family’s whereabouts are unknown.

Recently Corporal Elmer P. Richard, a Prisoner of War during the police action in Korea, born in 1930 and not seen since his capture in December 1950, was laid to rest in Exeter, N.H. Unlike tens of thousands of other missing soldiers, Elmer had living relatives who never stopped asking for his return. His burial was attended by his last living brother of six and his two sisters.

For many others yet to be claimed, there are genealogists diligently working with the Department of Defense to find Primary Next of Kin, particularly blood relations whose DNA samples might identify any remains. Understanding what DNA tests are appropriate for what problem has become part of the modern genealogist’s toolkit.

Melinde Lutz Byrne